40 to Watch: Leaders of the Radical Right
Tom Martin was just 14 when he joined the racist Skinhead movement while living in Orlando, Fla., where he worked for the next four years in a family-owned moving company. At age 18, after having joined a far more sophisticated organization, the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Martin was hired as an Alliance staffer. He moved to the group's West Virginia compound in October 2001 and was assigned to work in its shipping department, where he filled orders from buyers of racist literature, music and other items.
The next spring, while still at the compound, Martin was arrested for attempted burglary and in May accepted a deal where he pleaded guilty to trespassing, paid a $100 fine and was given a suspended six-month jail sentence. He left the Alliance, which has made its disdain for Skinheads and petty criminals plain, soon after that. Moving to Charleston, W.Va., he organized a crew called the West Virginia Skinheads and put up a Web site for them.
During this same period in 2002, the Alliance suffered the death of its founder William Pierce and the revelation that both Pierce and his successor had viciously attacked Skinheads in secret speeches. That caused a split in the group, and key officer Billy Roper (see Revolting in Arkansas) was booted out last fall as a result.
Roper quickly formed another group, far more sympathetic to racist Skinheads, and last December, like more than 30 former Alliance members, Martin joined it. His job at Roper's White Revolution was youth coordinator, responsible for giving those under 18 years old "educational guidance and ideological training."
Introducing himself on the group's Web site, Martin acknowledged that he'd had "a bit of legal trouble" but said things had improved since he met his new fiancée, Amanda.
Martin's organizing skills are reflected on his old Skinhead Web site, where new ties with the Potomac Highland Skins and the Keystone State Skinheads were noted in March, and also in his self-described work with a local Klan group. In July, Martin, who is now Roper's Webmaster, added an online catalog for White Revolution, and he is planning a new Web-based forum, streaming radio and a closed E-group for members only.
One thing Martin is not, however, is literate. In a bizarre review of the movie "White Oleander," Martin can hardly be understood as he writes about women. "Love humiliates you," he somehow concludes. "Hate cradles you."
Tom Metzger is one of the grand old men of organized hate. In a career spanning four decades, the Southern California television repairman has become famous for the crudity of his propaganda and the violence he has embraced — but also for his innovative political ideology that rejects traditional distinctions of right and left in favor of the "third position."
A rarity on the radical right, Metzger has celebrated labor, attacked the U.S. role in Central America and praised the Soviet Union as a white workers' state, among other things.
Metzger started his odyssey on the extreme right by joining the John Birch Society in the early 1960s, but left because it rejected anti-Semitism. In 1975, he was recruited by David Duke to join Duke's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, rising to California state leader — and becoming involved in several violent episodes — at the same time that neo-Nazi James Warner was teaching him to be a minister of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology.
In 1980, Metzger broke with Duke, who he saw as a womanizing egotist, and turned his chapter into an independent Klan group. That fall, he won a Democratic primary for Congress, losing in the general election but winning some 35,000 votes. He then left the Klan, forming the White American Political Association and making an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the Senate in 1982 (he received more than 75,000 votes statewide).
In 1983, he changed his group's name to White Aryan Resistance (WAR), and the following year he pioneered the radical right's move into local access cable television with a show titled "Race and Reason." (By 1992, the show was airing in 62 cities in 21 states, although it then fell off as the Internet became a far more popular venue.)
At around the same time, Metzger and his son John reached out early to racist Skinheads who were just appearing, organizing them as the "shock troops" of the coming revolution. In 1985, Metzger became one of the first white supremacists to initiate contacts with the black supremacist Nation of Islam and, later, other black groups.
On Nov. 12, 1988, Skinheads in Portland, Ore., who had been influenced by a war operative, beat an Ethiopian student to death. The murderers, Metzger said later, had done their "civic duty." In addition to criminal convictions, the killing brought a civil lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League that resulted in a $12.5 million verdict against the Metzgers, their organization and two of the killers.
Metzger lost his house, truck and tools, and still pays about $800 a month to the estate of the victim. A furious Metzger promised to put "blood on the streets like you've never seen."
Since the suit, war has never returned to being a true membership organization, and Metzger now advocates "lone wolf" attacks on the system. He speaks occasionally, traveling as far away as Japan, and still puts out his WAR tabloid, which is unrivalled in its crude racism. If no longer a genuine leader, Metzger is still a real movement hero — even inspiring a character in the movie "American History X" — and recently started up a new radio show.
It's not often that a racist Skinhead turns out to be a highly capable businessman, but Anthony Pierpont is a case in point.
Pierpont (pictured with his sister) is the prime mover behind Panzerfaust Records, a white power music distributor known for having signed the better "hatecore" bands and a major competitor of one-time powerhouse label Resistance Records. Pierpont founded Panzerfaust in September 1998 with Eric Davidson, who had earlier worked at Resistance, which is operated by the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
The name of the label comes from a hand-held anti-tank weapon developed by Nazi Germany, translating literally as "armored fist," which fits in with Pierpont's idea of white power music as "the audio ordnance [for] today's struggle." Today, Davidson has left and Pierpont runs the company with another former Alliance staffer, Bryant Cecchini (alias Byron Calvert, see Music, Mercenaries and Minnesota).
Anthony Pierpont is probably the most competent promoter in the white power music business, and he has earned the respect of most members of the extremely violent Hammerskins, in part by supporting Skinhead "prisoners of war" in the nation's prisons. In fact, his reports on the hatecore scene were the main feature of the now defunct Hammerskin Press.
But he has a serious problem — his relatively dark skin and vaguely Hispanic looks. As early as 1995, when he attended the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations Youth Fest, he was accused behind his back of being Mexican, and the same kinds of attacks were being repeated just this July.
His sister, until recently an employee of the Porn Star Clothing firm, has also raised eyebrows because the clothing is supposedly targeted to young white girls. Pierpont was reportedly approached in 1998 about purchasing Resistance and refused, leaving it to the National Alliance to pay the $250,000 price.
Today, he and Cecchini are running what may be the primary competitor of Resistance, and they have grown close to the neo-Nazi White Revolution group. White Revolution is run and largely peopled by those who have recently left the troubled Alliance (see Against the Wall).
An unemployed diesel mechanic who stays at home and brews beer while his wife works, David Pringle is hardly the person you'd expect to be the membership coordinator and chief spokesman for the neo-Nazi National Alliance, which for decades has sought to project a professional image. Yet Pringle for a year now has held the second most important post in the Alliance, after chairman Erich Gliebe (see Führer of the Titanic), and in fact is a more visible activist than the reclusive former boxer.
Pringle, the long-time Alaska unit leader for the Alliance, was elevated to his current job on Sept. 17, 2002, a day after Gliebe fired Billy Roper (see Revolting in Arkansas) as deputy membership coordinator during an internal power struggle. Roper had assiduously courted both mainstream and movement media, and during his two years acting as an Alliance spokesman was quoted in more than 600 newspaper stories.
Pringle, who also has been an authorized spokesman for about two years, has tallied fewer than 20. That, and Pringle's failure to communicate effectively within the group, has hurt his standing among Alliance members and others on the radical right, one of whom recently described Pringle in a Web posting as "one of the most pretentious and least substantial characters currently active in Nationalist politics."
Although Pringle's father holds a Stanford Ph.D. and reportedly worked in weapons research for the Department of Defense, Pringle never went to college and instead joined the Army in 1988, at the age of 19. He says his visceral hatred of Jews developed when, on a mission in the Middle East, his unit brought a severely burned Bedouin boy to an Israeli hospital that refused to treat him.
In the years since then, Pringle has disowned his "race traitor" sister, who has a mixed-race child, but does occasionally see his parents, Mormons who live in New Mexico and do not agree with his views.
And his views are remarkable. In one E-mail, Pringle said that mass murderer Tim McVeigh "should have a monument erected in his honor." He went on: "I don't feel any sympathy for the families of the 168, not the children, not the secretaries and definitely not the federal pigs."
Pringle, who favors untucked flannel shirts and rumpled blue jeans, has committed several gaffes that have drawn notice in the movement. In May, he gave an interview to a New York television station on the subject of "White Law," a video game where players take the role of police officers and kill minorities to gain points. "We're basically prying the door open, getting in little Johnny and little Janie's minds," he said. As long-time Alliance member Joseph Bishop (alias Keith Fulton) wrote later, that statement "makes the NA look like a bunch of conspiratorial child molesters."
The same month, Pringle posted a public warning to other hate groups to avoid contact with producers of "The John Walsh Show," who were depicted as out to do in white nationalists. A week later, it emerged that Alliance staffer Shaun Walker would be a guest, despite Pringle's pronouncement. Members of other hate groups saw Pringle's maneuver as a cheap trick to keep publicity away from them.
Today, Pringle, who brags of being an expert gunfighter who carries a concealed weapon, continues to run the revolution from a spare bedroom covered with Nazi World War II posters.
If any proof were needed that a history of rampant criminal violence and madness is no disqualification for leadership in America's neo-Nazi movement, Ray Redfeairn would be Exhibit No. 1.
Long before he was a movement heavy with high posts in the Idaho-based Aryan Nations, Redfeairn was a scary character who racked up an extensive criminal record. In 1979, after holding up a car dealership and a motel, Redfeairn shot 22-year-old Dayton, Ohio, police officer Dave Koenig (see At Death's Door) three times after Koenig stopped him.
According to Koenig, Redfeairn then kneeled over Koenig and held the gun to his head, saying at one point, "You fucking pig, you think you're so bad now, eh?" Koenig was hit in the neck, shoulder and liver, surviving thanks to the bulletproof vest he was wearing.
In court, Redfeairn was described as a paranoid schizophrenic and sent to a mental institution for more than a year before being deemed fit to stand trial. In 1981, Redfeairn was convicted of attempted aggravated murder and three counts of aggravated robbery. Sentenced to four consecutive seven-to-25-year sentences, Redfeairn was nonetheless paroled in 1991. Just one month later, he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.
Redfeairn became the Ohio state leader for the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations in 1992, serving until 1998, but that did not blunt his criminal propensities. During those years, he served more time for separate convictions for aggravated menacing, carrying a concealed weapon and drunken driving, and he even showed up at the house of the man who'd reported his erratic driving and threatened to kill him. In 1996, Redfeairn's mother accused her son of threatening to kill her, too, but later withdrew the charge. (Testimony in his 1985 trial revealed that he also had once held a butcher knife to her throat.)
Redfeairn left Aryan Nations in 1998, but testified for Aryan leader Richard Butler in 2000, when the Southern Poverty Law Center was suing the group and several members in connection with an attack on a woman and her son.
Redfeairn told the court he had quit the group because Butler advocated non-violence — testimony that was undermined when the plaintiffs played a video showing Redfeairn in Butler's pulpit, with Butler standing nearby, saying that "to grab an AK-47 or an M16 and run and plug some nigger in the head" was an act of "conscience" that he "won't condemn."
The next year, an undercover tape recording caught Redfeairn, in the home of Aryan Nations member David William Kinkaid (now in prison on weapons charges), speaking about recent racial disturbances in Cincinnati. "You can legally kill this nigger," he said, apparently referring to blacks in general. "I said, 'Shoot it in the head.'"
In late 2001, Butler named Redfeairn as his successor. Although Redfeairn attempted a coup against Butler (for details, see profiles of Morris Gulett and Charles Juba) and was kicked out, he returned in 2002. Butler, who is seriously ill with heart trouble, has since reinstated Redfeairn as his chosen successor, and now lists him as an Aryan "reverend" on his Web site.